Unalaska Temporarily Evacuates Due To Tsunami Warning

Jan 23, 2018

People at IFHS celebrate the cancellation of Unalaska's tsunami evacuation with a selfie.
Credit Courtesy Roger Blakeley

The National Weather Service canceled a tsunami warning for the Gulf of Alaska this morning, after a magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck near Kodiak around 12:30 a.m.

In Unalaska, tsunami sirens started blaring at 1:50 a.m. – and residents were encouraged to move at least 50 feet above sea level.

Around 200 people sheltered at city hall and the clinic including Iata Akopo. He’s new to Unalaska, but in 2009 he experienced a major tsunami at home in Samoa.

“Back on Sept. 29, 2009, our island was hit by [an earthquake] -- and then not even a minute [the] tsunami showed up out of nowhere," Akopo said. "We lost loved ones and a lot of people, so yeah I’ve been through this.”

Akopo’s family called him from Samoa and Anchorage to make sure he knew about the earthquake and Tsunami warning.

Growing up in Unalaska 12-year-old Karina Villamor has been preparing for tsunamis her whole life. She arrived at City Hall with a bag filled with supplies including -- 

“Food for people and battery packs, so they can charge their phone if they need to contact someone,” Villamor said.

Her advice for people who have never experienced a tsunami evacuation? Be patient.

“If anything, everything is going to go smoothly," Villamor said. "That’s what I’ve experienced while living here. It’s just small precautions to make sure everyone’s safe.”

During the evacuation PCR Director Roger Blakeley was responsible for making sure that everyone in the makeshift shelters at the clinic and city hall was calm and getting accurate information.

Around 3:40 a.m. – he got the news everyone was waiting for.

“Go home," Blakeley said. "Have fun. It’s been canceled. Wasn’t it fun being together? Let’s all get a selfie before we leave.” 

After two hours of evacuation, it was safe for Unalaskans to head home.